With Anna away I've been staying busy with field work in Kobbefjord, but I did manage a day hike to the top of Sermitsiaq yesterday. Sermitsiaq is the iconic peak (also its own island) near Nuuk with a craggy 1200 meter summit visible from most places in town. It's also the name of the local newspaper, and many other community themed events. We had superb weather, especially considering Nuuk was shrouded in fog most of the day. Here are some photos from the hike:
If you missed the first of this three part series on Qoornoq, you can read it here: Qoornoq Part 1: The Open Boat.
Qoornoq Part 2: The Open Wound
Saturday we woke up and quickly got on task hunting for some nice bouldering problems. We didn't find much and spent the first couple hours on a fun low angle traverse fairly close to camp-- great for the beginners in the group (including yours truly). We then moved on to some more challenging problems of the overhanging variety that soon had me exhausted and napping in the sun.
Just before lunch, we split up to look for more boulders and agreed to meet up at camp shortly. Ken headed off across the river, Tina and I stayed together, and Thomas and Naajaraq headed closer to camp. About 20 minutes later, as Tina and I finished up, Najaaraq came sprinting uphill towards us, shouted something, and Tina took off after her. All of this was in Danish so I imagined a whole scenario of possibilities in the two minutes it took us to reach Thomas. We had discussed the movie "127 Hours" at length the night before and I just hoped we would get to him before he gnawed off his own arm.
We came around the corner and there lay our valiant leader, holding his leg and muttering obscenities. Tina, who is a midwife at the hospital, took charge. Unfortunately, Thomas was not having a baby, but she still was the best-trained among us to take his hand away from his leg and examine the five inch long, inch (or more) deep cut running alongside his shin. Apparently he had swung his leg into the WRONG razor sharp rock while down-climbing a few minutes earlier--not that sensational of an accident, but a definite bummer, and a painful and potentially hazardous one at that.
With my years of veterninary technician experience, my first instinct before doing anything was to look for some clippers to shave the hair away from the site of the injury and bandage his hands to keep him from scratching the wound, but I kept my mouth shut and let the trained medical professional do her job. As Tina kept pressure on the wound and I picked mosquitos from her face, we determined that the wound needed a good cleaning, stitches, and some antibiotics, none of which we were really equipped to provide (although to Tina's credit, she offered to do some stitches.)
And so, we sent Najaaraq, the only local in our group, as a runner to Qoornoq (about 3 km away) to look for help. As she took off running we wondered if the tide was low enough for her to make it to the island. For some reason I kept thinking of the first brother from the children's book "The Five Chinese Brothers" (now poorly regarded for promoting ethnic stereotypes, but still a classic), whose special skill is that he can swallow the sea while his brothers gather fish from the ocean floor.
Luckily, the first chinese brother (or at least the tidetable) was indeed on our side because within an hour, Najaaraq returned to the beach with a nurse and her husband in a small inflatable boat with an outboard motor. The nurse was in fact Thomas' girlfriend's boss-- small world here in Nuuk. She carried a very serious looking orange medical case and I braced myself for a real live wilderness medicine situation. Much to my disappointment (and even more to Thomas'), she did not have any anesthetic and decided it would be best to take Thomas back to town and put him on a boat to Nuuk.
After sending Thomas off we immediately decided to head into town for the Mayoral Election festivities and didn't bring up bouldering again until the next afternoon. Thomas was stitched up and on painkillers by 8:00 that evening. All in all, a wonderful ending to a potentially bad situation.
Below, some pics of Qoornoq town and the party-goers.
We caught the tail end of a performance by one of the oldest and most famous bands in Greenland (I forget their name). They played covers and Greenlandic classics, and were pretty good. Here, a short clip. Note the drummer on box with wooden spoon.
Stay tuned for the last in this three part series, Qoornoq Part 3: The Open Faced Sandwich. Less drama, but overall more excitement, as I'll be exploring a brave new world of condiments.
I was not a great asset to Ken's workplace.
Growing up as the daughter of a mental health professional, I was sadly never allowed to be take part in the U.S.'s slightly ridiculous "take your daughter to work day" (now renamed "take our daughters and sons to work day" for gender parity). So, I was thrilled when Ken proposed that I come to work with him one day this week at his field site in Kobbefjord. No breaches of client confidentiality there!
So, what does a field day consist of for a man of Big Science? From what I saw, it breaks down to about 60% hiking, 20% tilting the screen of the laptop JUST right to get rid of glare, 10% eating, and 10% science. Not a bad mashup!
Consult the pictures below and their captions if you'd like to read about the scientific activities of the day. The nice wildlife shots are Ken's; other masterpieces compliments of yours truly.
This Sunday, Ken and I finally decided to hike to the top of Store Malene, the highest peak (760 m/2508 ft) easily accessible from town. Because there was a lot of snow this year, we were waiting for a good melt to set in before attempting the walk. I suppose we were also celebrating our new proximity to the trails outside town-- they're now only a 5 minute walk from our door. (This is even more exciting for the winter... we'll be in a ski-in ski-out condo!).
The hike was nice, and actually a bit more demanding than I expected, involving some hands-and-feet-required scrambling. We had a great 360 degree view at the top and saw tantalizing peaks in the distance that we hadn't previously known existed. Well worth the effort.
Hiking in the hills outside Islamabad last fall, in a highly inappropriate outfit.
We saw about ten other hikers in the three hours it took us to complete the trip. There were a few Danish transplant types-- young blondes wearing Mammut coats--but the rest of the hikers were Greenlandic.
My favorite was a duo of Greennlandic guys in running shoes and track pants. As they trotted up behind me, I stopped to catch my breath, clinging to a rock to stave off my vertigo, and turned to them to say, "Wow! You guys are fast!"--very much in the fashion of my mother. The elder of the pair looked at me and said, "YES! I HAVE ALREADY RUN UP THIS TRAIL 57 TIMES. IT'S GREAT!" I said, "Wow, that's specific. You're really a professional, huh?" (Insert smiley face in my intonation.) He replied, "YES! I AM!". Then he ran past Ken and said, "WELCOME TO GREENLAND!". When we got to the top, he and his companion (who I think was a protege of sorts) were engaging in what looked like little feats of strength, leaping in spasmodic bouts of energy from boulder to boulder. The whole thing was just laced with ENTHUSIASM.
It gave me a flashback to last fall when I was working in Islamabad. On the weekends, we would sometimes hike in the Margalla Hills outside of the city. On the first trip, we got a little lost, and suddenly, out of the bushes, appeared a middle aged man in a full polyester track suit straight from the 1970s. "Hello!" he said. We asked him for directions, and he pointed us to a fork in the trail that we should take. Then he took off running into the bushes in the opposite direction, straight up the hill. "Where are you going?" we asked. "TO THE FIRE TRAILS!" he said. (Fire trails are the corridors blazed into the hills to help stop wildfires by creating a vegetation gap-- they go straight up and down the mountains, no switchbacks.) Then he disappeared, but for the next 45 minutes of hiking, he kept popping in and checking on us as we trudged up the switchbacks, taking shortcuts via the fire trails, always shouting things like, "DO YOU LOVE IT? IT'S GREAT! YOU MUST TRY THE FIRE TRAILS NEXT! MUCH BETTER!" "OH HOHOHOHOHO! I LOVE IT!" so on and so forth. When he stopped to talk to us, he jumped up and down the whole time, panting, his polyester suit fully zipped despite the 90 degree F (32 degree C) heat. Again... such enthusiasm! Such dedication to physical fitness!
All this has gotten me thinking about "hiking" and what it means in different cultures. I think it's pretty well-defined in the west (Europe/North America). It's a granola-ish activity enjoyed by lots of people, especially those with money. Also, in the west I think it is most enjoyed by those who like being outside but aren't necessarily in great shape or have great physical fitness capabilities. (Those who have great abilities, I believe, get into true mountaineering/climbing/skiing (a category in which I do not include myself!)). On the flip side, in very poor developing countries, I think the concept of "hiking" comes across as pretty outlandish. When I worked in Guatemala as a trekking guide (the only clientele, of course, being Europeans and North Americans on holiday), this was painfully obvious. We'd be trudging up some village's main trail with our fancy backpacks only to be lapped a few times by an old man in flip flops carrying 30 kilos of wood with a head strap. Flexing his gigantic neck tendons, he would just look at us-- not with malice, but still with the obvious implication that we were idiots. Same story in Ethiopia, perhaps even moreso.
But then there are places in the middle-- unique places like Greenland, which is both developing and highly developed (and also has a long cultural connection to nature/subsistence hunting/wilderness/etc), and places like Pakistan, which is quite impoverished but has a wealthy elite and highly developed, modern areas. (I suppose Guatemala has its wealthy elite as well-- I just never got close to those circles.) In these places it seems that among locals, "hiking" is viewed as a means to an end--fitness--possibly with the side benefit of a good view and some fresh air along the way.
For those of us in the west who are trails enthusiasts, I think it's the opposite. When we get to the top, we don't leap around the summit continuing to bolster our fitness; we have a look, do some reflection, feel a little zen about ourselves and eat some chocolate, then begrudge the fact that now, we have to go back down.
Ramblings aside, here are some pictures of our new backyard!